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Moving: A reflection on gains, change, losses and momentum.

by Sean McDonald

Moving is one of the most stressful experiences.  Packing, cleaning, planning, arguing, worrying, and rethinking just about everything in our daily routine … no thank you.

This week MOR moved its global HQ.  Although it is only about 1 mile away, the move required lots of planning and organizing.  Hats off to Maria here at MOR for managing the lion’s share of that process. 

On our first day in the new space, I observed the new energy my colleagues seemed to have.  Excited about the additional light, the color on the walls, the kitchen lay out.  Excited about the new standing desk option, the new conference room, the walking path along the nearby river.  There was new opportunity that didn’t exist the day prior.  Interesting, the worry and stress that led to this shift had seemingly vanished.

As we know, much of our day is filled with habit.  Our brains seek patterns.  The anticipation of a move is like the feeling we get when our comfort zones are tested. Moving is like being thrust outside of our comfort zones.  We work with hundreds of people that are constantly testing the limits of their comfort zones as leaders and I can’t think of a person that has reported a negative experience during that stretch.  So despite the stress, I am now wondering, how might we “move everyday”?

At MOR we talk about shifting the mindset away from the word change toward the concept of evolution.  Our brains (and our comfort zones) prefer the word change because it signifies an event.  “Once this event is muscled through,” we tell ourselves, “things will go back to ‘normal.’”  But with change becoming the “new normal,” it is clear we need to cross the bridge from change to evolution. Kevin Kelly, in his recent book The Inevitable, uses the word “becoming” to capture this constant upgrading of our lives.  Everything, from the apps on our phones to ourselves, is constantly becoming something next, something new.

So, how can we better adapt?  How can we move every day?  Here are three ways:

  1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  When you get that nervous feeling in your head, heart or stomach, step forward into it. Seek to explore it further.  Don’t walk away, for on the other side of fear is freedom.
  2. Make regular trips to the balcony.  Make time to think.  Assess the trends around you and consider scenarios as they impact your ongoing direction.  If you are thinking two steps ahead, change becomes momentum toward your desired direction as everyone else takes that first step. 
  3. Speed up on the curves.  As we increasingly hear the words “reimagine” and “reinvent,” there is no better time to focus on the practice of strategic thinking.  We can either let this change happen to us or we can be part of defining it.  As Brad Wheeler wrote in his Educause article “Speeding Up On Curves”:  Given this uncertainty, when IT and campus leaders are confronted with an evolving curve of unknown shape, we have a tendency to want to wait: “We’ll let the uncertainty drain out. Let’s see what’s around that curve before we come in.” Farther along the curve there is often less uncertainty. But there is also less opportunity to change a curve.

So what new practice will you insert into your routine to “move everyday”?  For me, in the new space here at MOR, I have chosen to have no dedicated desk.  Yes, my wife and colleagues think I am crazy.  But, every day is new. Every day I can plan my path based on my evolving priorities. Every day I get to move!